Krishna’s mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, a nitya-siddha (eternal associate) of the Lord, instructs the devotees to pray To Mahaprabhu. He says that we should seek shelter in the shade of a Vaishnava’s lotus feet, shed tears of remorse with total humility, submitting to him the plight of our material existence, which is the result of turning away from Krishna. The Vaishnava is an ocean of compassion and feels the pain of others. When he pleads on our behalf to the Lord, Krishna responds and kindly accepts us as the followers of his favorites.Krishna’s mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas.There is Krishna and karsna. Krishna’s mercy is embodied in pure devotees, who are known as karsna. The Lotus feet of a Vaisnava guru represents the mercy of the Lord. Krishna is the priceless treasure enthroned in Sri Guru’s heart. The Lord can easily give this treasure to those who are surrendered to his devotees. There is no other way to receive Krishna’s grace than to serve and take shelter at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava. SriKaviraja Goswami discusses the importance of honoring the Vaishnava’s remnants, using the example of SriKalidasa, the uncle of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami:Taking the food remnants of Vaishnavas is so potent, it forced Mahaprabhu to give his mercy to Kalidasa. Don’t hesitate-eat the Vaishnava’s remnants, and you will fulfill your heart’s desire.Food offered to Krishna is called maha-prasadam. After maha-prasadam is taken by a devotee, his remnants are glorified as maha-maha-prasadam. The dust of a pure devotee’s feet, the water of his foot bath, and his food remnants are three extremely potent spiritual substances. By honoring these three, one will be filled with ecstatic love for Krishna. All the scriptures declare this again and again. My dear devotees, please hear me: believe in these three and honor them in a mood of service, and you will achieve the purpose of your existence-ecstatic love of Krishna. This is the greatest mercy of Krishna, and Kalidasa is living proof. In Kalyana-Kalpataru, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes:When will Mahaprabhu shower his mercy upon me so I may have shelter in the shade of the Vaishnava’s lotus feet? I will humbly stand before the Vaishnava holding a straw between my teeth,weeping I will tell him of my miserable life, and I shall give up all self-deception. I will admit that mylife is one never-ending misery and beg him to put an end to all of this. The kind Vaishnava will beg Sri Krishna with all his might, and Krishna, moved by the Vaishnava’s sincerity, will shower his divinegrace.And in Saranagati, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes:O Vaishnava, you are an ocean of mercy. Please shower your compassion upon me. Give me the shade of your lotus feet and purify my polluted heart. I am following you, begging-Sri Krishna is yours-you have the power-give him to me!Narottama dasa Thakura sings a similar song:I am so sinful; how can I possibly serve the Lord? I have no love for my guru. I have no love for the devotees and I am constantly deluded. I am so absorbed in material life that I have forgotten who Iam. The witch Maya is waiting to hang a noose around my neck. I have no power to resist her on my own. I am helpless without your mercy. I know that you never see the faults of anyone, so I’m Begging you-please save me.” (Prarthana )Narottama’s songs are filled with wonderful glorification of Vaishnavas. They are treasured by all devotees as priceless instructions for increasing one’s devotion. From his childhood, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada chose Narottama’s songbook as his constant companion on the path of devotion. Vrndavana dasa Thakura considered himself to be the last direct servant of Nityananda Prabhu. He has glorified the Vaishnavas throughout his masterpiece Sri Caitanya-Bhagavata. In his introduction he writes:I first ofer my unlimited obeisances at the feet of Sri Krishna Chaitanya’s dearest associates, the devotees. And then I pray to him, who appeared in Nabadwip and was also known as Visvambhara.Sri Vrndavana dasa ofers his humble obeisances unto Mahaprabhu’s devotees, and then to Sri Mahaprabhu.He explains:The Supreme Lord has boldly declared in all the scriptures that ‘The worship of my devotees is higher than worshipping me.’ By first glorifying the Vaishnavas, I am guaranteed success in writing my book. (This statement was made by Krishna to Uddhava in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.)The next statement is from the Itihasa-Samuccaya :If one wants God’s mercy, he must first serve his devotees. Only this will satisfy the Lord; of this there is no doubt.The following verse, from the Pausayana-Sruti, is quoted in Srila Madhvacarya’s commentary on the BrahmaSutra :Worship the devotees, serve them, hear from them, and they will protect you.The Mundaka-Upanisad states:If you want the real treasure of liberation you must serve the Lord’s pure devotee.In his Govinda-Bhasya commentary, Baladeva Vidyabhusana quotes Srimad-Bhagavatam :

jnane prayasam-udapasya namanta evajivanti sanmukharitam bhavadlya-vartamsthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhirye prayas’o ‘jita jito’py asi tais tri-lokyam(Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.3)

Brahma prayed to Krishna,My dear Lord, those who have given up abstract thinking and armchair philosophizing,start hearing about you from devotees and begin divine service with their body, mind, and words. Although you are unconquerable and rarely attained, you are conquered by them.In the Padma Purana, Shiva says to his wife Parvati:O Goddess, higher than the worship of all the gods and goddesses is the worship of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. But higher still is the worship of everyone and everything that is dear to Him, Including Ganga devi, Tulasi devi, the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata.Vrndavana dasa cautions us against seeing Vaishnavas externally. Such superficial vision is condemned:In order to teach us the absurdity of judging devotees externally according to race, color, family, or other considerations, the Supreme Lord arranged for Haridasa Thakura to take birth in the lowest section of society. All the scriptures emphasize that if a pure devotee appears even in the lowest social circumstances, he is still to be worshipped by everyone.A Vaishnava may appear in any family or section of society, yet he is still the most elevated person by the decree of the scriptures.God is the protector of all living entities, and he cannot tolerate insults and disrespect shown to his devotees.Extremely mindful of his dear devotee’s well-being, he refuses to accept any worship from those who slight them. The Lord loves his devotees so much that he not only accepts food and gifts from them, but sometimes she even steals their offerings! Whereas he is repulsed by offering from a non-devotees.In one pastime, Krishna was very eager to eat plain chipped rice cooked by Vidura’s wife, and ignored a royal feast set by Duryodhana. Similarly the Lord could not resist eating the few morsels of flat rice offered By Sudama. He told him:O Brahmin! What wonderful things have you brought for me from your home? Even a small offering from a devotee is a grand feast for me, whereas a non devotee’s feast cannot satisfy me in the least. Anything offered to me with love, I accept with love.Sriman Mahaprabhu quotes from the Itihasa Samuccaya, recorded by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja:A person may learn all the Vedas, but if he has no devotion, how can he be my devotee? Whereas if a person born into the lowest section of society has devotion, he is very dear to me. All respect must be given to such an elevated soul. His offering must be accepted by all, for he is as much worthy of worship as I am.Mahaprabhu also quotes Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya:A Brahmin’s sins are burnt to ashes by the powerful fire of krsna-bhakti. Whereas if a Vedic scholaris an atheist, he is derided. Anyone devoid of devotion may take birth in a great family or nation,have extensive knowledge of the scriptures, perform austerities, or chant Vedic mantras, but such things are like ornaments on a dead body. Only fools will be impressed.When Mahaprabhu went to embrace Haridasa Thakura, with all humility Haridasa said to him:My dear Lord, please do not touch me. I am most fallen, the lowest of men. Mahaprabhu replied: Iwant to touch you just to purify myself. You are so pure, it is as if at every moment you are bathing in all the sacred rivers, visiting all the holy places of pilgrimage, and performing every sacrifice,austerity, and charity imaginable. You are more exalted than any Brahmin or sannyasi.The Lord then recited this sloka from the Srimad Bhagavatam:One who always chants your Holy Name, even though born in the worst circumstances, is a saint. We Can understand that he must have performed all austerities and sacrifices, bathed in all the holy river, and mastered the Vedas. Therefore he is a true Aryan (one who is pure).In the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda, it is declared:When a person is admitted into Vishnu’s family, he is called a Vaishnava. It has been said that of all people, the Vaishnava is certainly the most exalted.The Dvaraka-Mahatmya states:A person who is devoted to Janardana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a saint even if he is born into a low-class family; whereas if a person is born into an aristocratic family of noble lineage and is not a devotee of the Lord, he is of bad blood.Any association with non-Vaishnavas or with Brahmins who lack devotion is categorically denounced. ThePadma Purana states:The association of meat-eaters is strictly prohibited because their lifestyle goes against scriptural regulations; in the same manner, contact with a non-Vaishnava Brahmin must be avoided. Whereas a Vaishnava-one who is initiated and who is affectionate to the Lord and his devotees–even if born into a low-class family, is capable of purifying all three worlds.Vrndavana dasa says that intimate association with non-Vaishnavas, regardless of their parentage, is suicidal.According to the Padma Purana, the characteristics of a Vaishnava are as follows:One who is dedicated to worshipping Vishnu, who has received initiation into a Vishnu-mantra, is classified as a Vaishnava by spiritual preceptors; all others are non-Vaishnavas.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa1.55)Those who are simply born into a Brahmin family but are non-Vaishnavas, and who are inimical Towards Vishnu and Vaishnavas, are condemned. Vrndavana dasa cries out against these namesake Brahmins, citing the Varaha Purana:In Kali-yuga, demons will be born in smarta Brahmin families to harass and torture the righteous devotees of the Lord. The demons choose Kali-yuga to be born in, so they can torment those rare person who adhere to the path enunciated by the Vedas (sruti ). They viciously attempt to disrupt the devotee’s service to the Supreme Lord.These Brahmin impostors view Vaishnavas who have a bad background with contempt. They scof at their spiritual practices, or when they see them receive honor and respect, they vainly try to expose the Vaishnava’sbackground, and other mundane trivialities. The Brhad Aranyaka Sruti describes them, saying:One who leaves the world fully understanding the Absolute Truth is honored as a Brahmin, but one who does not has wasted his life.According to Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja, not only should one not consider the form of God to be mundane, but the same is true of his devotees.As written by Srila Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, the author of SrimadBhagavatam:There is no greater blasphemy than to think that the body of Vishnu is material. And Mahaprabhu Says: The Vaishnava’s body is never mundane; it is supramundane, and supercharged with ecstasy.(Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 7.155, Antya-lila 4.191)The use of the term atmasama does not imply that pure devotees are equal to the Supreme Lord in every respect. The Supreme Lord is the only one who possesses transcendental qualities to an infinite degree. The Jiva can only possess these qualities to a finite degree.Mahaprabhu says: “The finite and the Infinite can never be considered equal, just as a tiny spark is never equal to a fire.” The following verse is found in the Bhagavat Sandarbha and also in Sridhara Swami’s commentary to the Srimad-Bhagavatam:The Supreme Lord is the embodiment of etenality, knowledge, and bliss. Two of his multifariousspiritual energies are: hladini-sakti, the pleasure-giving potency, and samvit, perfect knowledge ofthe self and all other things, while the jivas are cocooned in ignorance, and deeply anchored insufering.Only by taking complete shelter of Sri Radhika and her serving group, the hladini sakti, can we realize our innate spiritual identity and service to the holy lotus feet of Sri Guru, Gauranga, and Krishna. SrilaKrishnadasa Kaviraja explains further why a pure Vaishnava’s body is aprakrta, or supramundane:At the time of diksa (initiation), the devotee surrenders to Krishna with body and soul. Inreciprocation, Krishna accepts him, elevating him, body and soul, to a status equal to his own. TheLord transforms the Vaishnava’s body and makes it a repository of transcendental emotions.”(Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 8. 192-193)He then quotes the Srimad-Bhagavatam:When people reject materialism and conduct their lives under my direction, they attain immortality.They become eligible to be with me and share spiritual emotions (rasa ) with me in their spiritualidentity.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.29.34)But what is meant by surrender, Srila Saraswati Prabhupada writes in his Anubhasya commentary:Although one who has completely renounced the world (akincana ) and one who is completelysheltered in Krishna (saranagatah ) may appear to be the same externally, the devotee who hasgiven up the world has also ofered his soul. At the time of initiation, the devotee gives up materialconceptions while he begins to understand sambandha-jnana, one’s eternal relationship with Godand those who are part of the family of God. When the devotee gives up the shelter of maya, hetakes shelter of Krishna and is Krishnized. At this stage, the devotee’s delusion as enjoyer ofmaterial pleasures dissipates, and his real self merges with his new identity as an eternal servant ofKrishna. The devotee attains his spiritual body (sac cid ananda svarupa )and his eternal service toKrishna, serving him in his own transcendental form. The pure devotee’s ecstatic service is anelevated stage of devotion which is often misinterpreted and misunderstood by those unacquaintedwith the science of devotion. For this kind of aparadha one is deprived of the shelter of a Vaishnavaguru.” (Anubhasya, Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 4.193)Mahaprabhu taught everyone that a Vaishnava’s transcendental body is unlike that of an ordinary person, oreven an extraordinary person. The Lord did not view personalities like Haridasa Thakura, who took birth in alow-class family, or Sanatana Goswaml, whose body was diseased, or Vasudeva Vipra, who was sufering fromacute leprosy, as social outcasts or disease ridden beggars. Instead he embraced them, proving that a puredevotee’s body is never impure. The pure devotee’s body is transcendental, infused with spiritual bliss, andbest suited to serve Krishna. As the Lord himself says:mad-bhakta-pujyabhyadhikasarva-bhutesu man-matihThe worship of my devotees is the real worship of me. In fact it is higher thanworshipping my very self. (Bhag. 11.19.21)My dear devotees, please read and listen carefully to the divine stories and instructions that follow, and prayto the Supreme Lord and his devotees-the Vaishnavas-that we may always worship and adore them, andthereby enter The Heart of Krishna.

By Srila Bhakti Pramod Puri Goswami Maharaj (Founding Acharya of Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math)